In seven hours and 3 minutes (precisely!) Pelligrino announcess this years top 50. Or as Andrew has dubbed it, "the hitlist." Last year we conjured up a plan to make this list our holiday wheel of fortune. Working our way through the voted top ten restaurants numerically starting with 10 and consequently venturing to which ever country it is in. So each year we edge closer to the top spot, with massive detriment to our pockets and massive gains to our waistbands! First stop was number 10, New York’s Per Se.
A floor to ceiling view of the NYC skyline as this made up for Per Se's bizarre location, on the upper floor of an upmarket shopping mall. Perched luxuriously above the Columbus Circle and the lower half of central park makes for an apt urban contrast to Thomas Kellers sibling restaurant on the Californian coast. As with the French Laundry Keller resonates his French cooking fundamentals at Per Se.
Andrew and I settled ourselves with a G&T and my bag nestled nicely on its very on "purse pouf," an unnecessary but amusing addition pointed out by our polite host. Having avoided lunch we were ready and raring for the ten tiered culinary assault course. With the menu presented to us and reading like culinary poetry I could not contain my excitement, my eyes darted from neighbouring table to table catching glimpses of plates dotted with caviar beads and flourishes of micro herbs. The nights activity of overindulgence looked promising.
The Salmon Cornets were a playful start then the signature dish of Oysters and Pearls tantalised our mouths on both textural and taste levels. Flavours of the sea were harmoniously singing together in my mouth with popping bursts of punchy fish provided the staccato highlights - definite stand out dish. With a rip roaring start, as with all tasting menus the ability and skill come from keeping up this tempo, the following courses were only semi glorious. Foie gras terrine was overpowering especially with super sweet accompaniments and the "cheese" course tasted like foamed Philedelphia with a curious non descript green oil. These dishes I would have preferred to be minimalised and swapped with upping the portion on dishes like the striped sea bass which regained the melody of the meal adding freshness and displayed flair.
On to the sweets, which I personally was looking forward to, PB & J has been a favourite of mine in ANY guise since I was knee high. This being a retrospective review, the details are slightly blurry but I can recall that I was underwhelmed finding the flavours did not stand out on their own or worked particularly well when together. There was a definite lack of joyous nuttiness and molten fruity sweetness that its humble sandwich cousin does have. One last course, that arrived in an art deco silver box which folded out three ways to reveal pastel coloured macaroons, salt water taffee and chocolate nuggets, provided, thankfully, a good note to finish on. I couldn't quite finished these but, ahem, made sure there was room in my purse for a sneaky takeaway!
Smoked salmon and chive pate in a brioche sweet cone
|"Oysters and Pearls"|
Sabayon of pearl tapioca with oysters and white sturgeon caviar
|Terrine of Duck Foie Gras served with huckleberries, beets, whipped acacia honey and brioche toast|
"Toma Piemontese Fonduta" with date coulis and shaved young fennel
|Crispy Skin of Striped Bass with clams, tomatoes, parsley shoots and nicoise olive oil|
|Buttered poached Nova Scotia Lobster Mitts|
and red pepper tortellini, compressed cucumber and pickled garlic
|Bacon wrapped rib eye of Veal with mushrooms, watercress leaves and sour cherry "pudding"|
|PB & J|
Peanut parfait, crystallized lemon verbena, toasted peanuts and grape sherbet
|Strawberry Sorbet, with strawberry lace and cinnamon soda layer and candyfloss squiggle.|
|Huckleberry and Buttermilk Sherbet|
Oat crumble, huckleberry "demi-sec" and buttermilk chantilly
All in all it was a rollercoaster ride of a meal hinting at and proving to be full of Americansims resulting in both delight and slightly sullen faces. Memorable, yes. Top ten, at times and yes more times than not but something was still niggling at me. Perhaps it was the hotel restaurant-esque vibe, formal and flawlessly polite but not sincere or the odd touches (purse pouf and free cashmere shawl for cold shoulders) that although thoughtful doesn't amount to the sky high price tag. But thats just me, the hoards of professional gourmands seem to have nothing but praises.
No sour taste in my mouth though, six hours and fifty nine minutes left!